Predictions being made for 2014 in the marketing arena include prognostications about targeted marketing, data analytics, customer experience, and data integration. There a number of sources for predictions in the marketing sector so I’ll only be able to offer a sample of what’s out there. Pinterest offers a page where you can “pin” your own marketing predictions for the coming year. The area that seems to be drawing the most attention is content marketing. Fifty years ago Marshall McLuhan declared, “The medium is the message.” Even back then, he understood that there is a symbiotic relationship between a message and the medium over which it is carried. In today’s omnichannel world, that symbiotic relationship remains important for marketers to understand. I suspect that is why Sherice Jacob predicts, “In 2014, other content marketing avenues will overtake social media – including live events, case studies and (if companies can afford it), branded content tools. These things deliver much more value, brand awareness, backlinks and discussion than a simple social share – and in a marketing channel that’s already overcrowded, these tools present a chance for opportunistic businesses to approach customers from a newer, more helpful angle.” [“The Future of Content Marketing: Trends and Predictions for 2014,” KISSmetrics, 13 November 2013]
Targeted marketing involves getting the right offer to the right consumer at the right time (what is offered may sometimes involve consumers being in the right place). To do targeted marketing effectively, Big Data analysis must be used to garner insights about consumers so that messages can be tailored. Allison Freeland predicts, “This is going to be the year when ‘big data’ becomes the norm and not some magical buzzword that mega-sized corporations like IBM throw around in their TV commercials. In fact, with so many organizations investing in more refined techniques for gathering consumer information – like audience research and audience personas – big data will soon simply be known as the new way to do data.” [“Look Into the Crystal Ball: 2014 Digital Marketing Predictions,” Social Media Today, 18 December 2013] Margaret Farmakis adds, “There’s a great TED Talk by David McCandless, a British journalist and researcher, where he refers to data as ‘the new soil.’ What are you going to grow? It’s imperative that marketers learn how to use the wealth of data at their disposal and do more than just gather it.” [“4 Game-Changing Digital Marketing Predictions for 2014,” Click Z, 10 December 2014] She predicts that 2014 will be the year when “marketers will stop talking about Big Data and start acting on it.” Jacob asserts, “Content needs to be tailored to fit the needs and unanswered questions of the target audience.” She predicts that in 2014 companies will:
“Shift from industry news and trends to ‘Here’s how you can use these trends to grow your own business – and how our company can help.’
“Exchange profiles of decision makers to focus on customer/company success stories – detailed case studies that show a marked, measurable result. …
“[Answer consumer questions like,] ‘Why should I trust you? What can you offer me that no one else can?’
“Tailoring content to where customers are in the buying cycle is a tried-and-true sales method, and I believe more and more marketing teams will take the time to properly engage their customers based on not only their place in the sales funnel, but their individual needs and expectations.”
Other analysts believe that not just success stories are needed, but good storytelling of all kinds. Stories connect with consumers in ways that cold, hard facts don’t. As noted above, sometimes effective targeted marketing depends on providing the right message in the right location to the right consumer. Freeland reports, “According to imFORZA, one-third of searches in 2013 were location based.” She predicts:
“In 2014, consumers’ location-based searches will drive marketers to get smarter and savvier about reaching consumers based on their locations. Real-time location data collection through smartphones and wearable technologies will proliferate and will result in higher customer click-through rates on their mobile devices. Age-old location-based marketing techniques like Designated Marketing Area (DMA), will also continue to be used with location-based marketing, reports eMarketer. Restaurant, retail and travel businesses lead the way in location-based marketing, and in 2014 other industries such as technology, goods, and other service-based companies will use it.”
Freeland goes on to report, “PaidContent.org reports that The New York Times recently launched an advertising product called Sparking Stories that allows advertisers to insert ads into content that is trending on Twitter. The tool is based on a social media analytics tool the Times has been using since 2011 called Cascade.” She then predicts:
“In addition to geographic and demographic targeting, brands will be able to choose social advertising based on trending content topics. In 2014, other advertising networks and publishers will follow suit by adopting or creating systems where marketers can easily target content on social networks.”
Much of the magic behind targeted marketing will be performed by cognitive computing systems like Enterra Solutions® Cognitive Reasoning Platform™. Freeland also makes a prediction on that topic (see below).
Jacob predicts, “This coming year, there will still be an emphasis on getting traffic, but many floundering websites are finally starting to wake up and smell the conversion coffee. Success will be measured according to the metrics that matter for that particular industry – whether it’s number of downloads, order volume, quality leads or a combination of those criteria.” Farmakis predicts, “Engagement will become more important than ‘response’ in any one channel.” She explains:
“Somewhat related to finally making active use of data assets is having a complete picture of a customer’s brand interactions across channels [and that] will trump the importance of any one channel. Furthermore, marketers will start creating KPIs that accurately measure the true definition of engagement, which goes far beyond a one-time interaction in a single channel. From an email perspective, engagement will increasingly impact inbox placement (already a major driver of filtering algorithms at the major mailbox providers), which will in turn tie back to brand reputation. In other words, where you land in the inbox is how your brand will be perceived by your customers. Likewise, fraudulent email from phishing and spoofing attacks will not only damage email engagement, but brand perception and interaction in other marketing channels.”
The only way to gain a complete picture of a customer’s brand interactions is through data integration.
Data integration (especially in the era of Big Data) is a growing challenge. Some analysts predict that 2014 will see efforts to unify and integrate data across blogs, websites, social platforms, and other channels. Jacob predicts, “2014 will see the rise of better measurement tools that don’t just track clicks and likes, but actual engagement in the form of discussion, shares across multiple platforms/channels, and actions as a result of those shares. Currently, it’s too cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming for a marketing team to micromanage the analytics for every single piece of content to see how it performed – so companies simply don’t invest in it.” Freeland adds, “There are three common silos in enterprise companies that impact digital relevance: SEO, marketing communications and public relations. As these once divergent roles overlap activities and goals, we’ll see more organizations merging these roles under a single business function.”
Freeland predicts, “We will see more marketers emphasizing the creation of intelligent systems for managing content and serving unique content to users. Marketers will embrace content strategy with increasing zeal. … On the other side of that coin, proper taxonomies (and systems of metadata to communicate those taxonomies) will become increasingly important to categorize content to keep up with the segmentation of users.” Freeland clearly believes that semantic search is the next big thing. She makes two predictions involving semantic search.
Her first prediction is that “brands that use semantic search will show up highest in search results.” She explains:
“Keyword relevancy is being replaced with topical relevancy and authority. This shift coupled with Google encrypting search results and stripping keyword metrics further changes how search marketing strategies and content plans should be developed. Semantic search (Hummingbird, Google Voice, etc.) is oriented around user intent and conversations. Searchers have become more confident in using complicated queries, which raises the bar for what search has to do. Brands that use long-tail, semantic keywords in their copy rather than single or two-word phrases will rank higher on Google.”
Her second prediction is that “the rise in semantic search will necessitate advanced tools for long-tail SEO.” She predicts, “We will see even more tools that allow us to understand semantic search and natural language processing, which will become smarter and more readily available for anyone looking to understand how Google looks at search.” Enterra® is heavily involved in natural language processing and I agree with Freeland that companies that can leverage that capability will have a leg up on their competition.
As I noted at the beginning of this post, one can only discuss so much in a short article. Nevertheless, I believe the prognosticators cited above paint a pretty clear picture of the direction in which marketing is heading.